Life with the PalmOne Treo 650 (part 2) - Chris Ullrich dot net

Life with the PalmOne Treo 650 (part 2)

As promised, here is part two of my review of the PalmOne Treo 650 phone/pda combo. To recap, I purchased the unlocked (as in no branding by a wireless company) Treo 650 directly from PalmOne and got it for the introductory price. Now, its a hundred bucks more expensive, which borders on the absurd. Of course, I also used to own the Sony Ericsson P910i so obviously i don’t mind spending money for tech gadgets that may or may not be worth the price.

I have had a chance to use the Treo 650 on an ongoing, day-to-day basis for many weeks now and following are a few observations and comments. First, i still like it. That’s a big one for me as many times the newness of something takes the edge off of what is bugging me about it. Second, its a pretty cool piece of technology after you make some changes to it and get it working correctly. Third, it definitely has room for improvement.

Out of the box, I attempted to use some of the built-in Palm applications such as VersaMail. I’m not really sure why VersaMail is even on the Treo 650, except maybe to frustrate me, so that was one of the first apps that I found a replacement for. My biggest problem with VersaMail? Even when it had downloaded new mail from my POP server or from my .Mac account and I had read those emails, it insisted on downloading them again and again and again, even though it was set to download “new” mail only. Not very useful. It never seemed to get the clue that those emails were not new and that I had, in fact, already read them.

Plus, it had the annoying habit of forgetting to download my email on the schedule I set up for it. I work with technology every day and people pay me to advise them on this stuff so I am by no means a novice or a layman. That said, I could not get it to work the way I wanted it too. So, I moved on. Unfortunately, even though I switched to the far superior and useful Snappermail, I am unable to delete Versamail because it is part of the ROM set that comes with the Treo.

Come on PalmOne, if you are not going to provide a decent app and force me to replace it, at least allow me to delete the offending app to save what meager memory apace you have left me with. It’s only fair. I’m sure someone, somewhere (Shadowmite?) is working on a way to get around this but I don’t have it yet so I a stuck with something I don’t use and would like to get rid of.

Palm should allow you to delete anything that you don’t want (application-wise, that is). They could still protect essential system files but everything else should be fair game. I don’t really need the “Welcome” or “Quick Tour” applications either (never run them, never will) so that’s two more that could go away. I wonder how much memory that would save?

Really, the root problem is the lack of memory and no foolproof way to run things from a secure digital card. Yes, I use PowerRUN to use some apps off of the SD card, Kinoma Player and Adobe Reader are two examples. But if you tried to run something more vital, it would cause a freeze and require a reset. This to me is not good. Maybe in the Treo 700.

As for other third-party applications that I use, here is a list of the ones currently on my Treo:

Vindigo – Restaurant and other listings by city (I have Los Angeles and Pasadena on mine currently)
Documents to Go – Access Word and Excel Files on the Treo (this comes with the Treo but it can be deleted)
Kinoma Player – Plays video and also allows you to access photos
PowerRUN – Application for transferring things to the SD card and running them from there
Snappermail – Full featured mail program for POP and .Mac
Splash Photo – Photo catalog program
Uninstall – Allows you to remove most Applications (even some parts of built-in ones) and removes them clean
Verichat – IM client for AOL, Yahoo, etc.

These all serve their purpose and work well on the Treo with few, if any, glitches. VeriChat occasionally has trouble signing on to AIM but that may more be a function of my use of a .Mac account rather than a problem with the application itself. It has no trouble with my Yahoo account. I also use Missing Sync for synchronization even though iSync worked just fine on its own. I like the added feature of being able to mount the SD card to the desktop and copy things to and from it. It’s cool and worth it to me.

So, the PalmOne Treo 650 is a good device despite its shortcomings. It’s not perfect and sometimes freezes (about once a month or so) and needs to be reset. This seems to happen most when it has tried to access the T-Mobile internet to download my mail and was unsuccessful for lack of signal. The lack of signal seems to be the one common reason when it freezes so that’s what I feel is the problem. When I am not someplace like the Hollywood Hills and have a clear signal, I experience no problems.

I suspect that the Palm software is about at the end of the line for usefulness in a device like this. As these devices get even more complex, they will require a multi-tasking OS such as Linux or even a mobile version of Mac OSX (I can dream). The Palm OS is well designed and proven after many years of use. But at this point, its beginning to show its age.

Perhaps in the Treo 700, or whatever its called, we will finally get the multi-function phone/pda that we have all wished for. Until then, the Treo 650 is a worthy stepping stone on the road to that goal. As long as you don’t mind a few bumps along the way.

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